NovaMind Software recently released a beta version of NovaMind 5.7 for Windows that has some intriguing new capabilities. Two of them have clear productivity benefits; the third I’m still scratching my head to figure out how it could possibly be used in a business setting.
In Microsoft Word, the format painter acts like a smart cut-and-paste, enabling you to copy the formatting from one block of text and then apply it in other parts of your document. It’s a very useful feature, in my opinion. Imagine that capability within a mind mapping environment, and you’ll get the idea of what the developers of NovaMind have accomplished here. This is how the format painter in NovaMind works: You first select a topic, then click on the format painter button (which looks like a paint brush – just like in Word. The cursor changes to resemble a highlighter marker. Any topics you click when the format painter is selected are transformed to match the style of the “donor” topic.
In Microsoft Word, the format painter is designed so that if you click it once, it can only be used to format one block of text, and then it automatically shuts off. However, if you double-click it, it stays “locked” on until you toggle it off, so you can apply the formatting of the “donor” text to multiple blocks of text. I’m pleased to see that NovaMind has decided to mimic this behavior. I tried this feature, and it worked really well. Please see the video above for a demonstration of how this works. It’s pretty slick. The “marker cursor” provides excellent visual feedback, while a single click applies the formatting – no dragging the cursor as you have to do in Word.
New themes added
NovaMind has offered map themes for a while now – pre-set collections of topic, connector line, text and background settings that enable you to change the look of your mind maps very quickly – but version 5.7 adds several new ones, including corkboard and draft (which incorporates the new flexitopics – see below for details). But there’s more that has been enhanced under the hood, if you will – you can now designate themes as favorites and can select one theme to be used as the default for creation of all new maps.
If you are using NovaMind Pro or Platinum, you can create a new theme either from the current mind map or from an existing theme. As the screen shot below shows, NovaMind opens a new “theme view,” which displays a genericized version of a mind map with named elements, and a ribbon toolbar that enables you to adjust any of the map’s properties. You then give your template a name, and save it. That’s all it takes.
I’m impressed with how easy this template editor is to use. Many programs (like the aforementioned Microsoft Word) enable you to create templates, but the process of doing so is somewhat byzantine. In NovaMind 5.7 beta, everything you need is neatly arranged on the toolbar, and the theme name input box is even integrated there. This increases the odds that new users will feel confident to create their own themes.
The third major enhancement in NovaMind 5.7 beta is something completely new called flexitopics. The format/topic shape menu now contains a new flexitopic option. This converts any topic into a flexible branch with several control handles, which enable you to stretch and reshape it at will. Advanced users can add or delete control points, giving you a very granular level of control over the appearance of your topic lines. This new functionality is tightly integrated with NovaMind 5’s new layout engine, which causes other branches to move out of the way, yet stay fairly close for a compact map layout.
Flexitopics can contain task information, checkboxes and adornment images (NovaMind’s term for icons or symbols); these elements follow the curve of the topic line.
What’s nice is that you can apply flexitopic formatting to any topic, and can create maps with a combination of normal and flexitopic lines. For even greater control. What’s curious to me, however, is how this new capability would be useful in a business setting. Also, NovaMind claims that flexitopics aren’t available in any other mind mapping program. iMindMap has offered a “freehand branch” for some time that enables you to draw complex shaped topic lines, and then manipulate them using control points.
I have now installed this beta version on two computers, and it seems to be very stable. If these enhancements are of interest to you, then you ought to download the beta and try it yourself.